Week 2: What is Digital Humanities?

Digital Humanities: Past, Present, Future
Jason M. Kelly, “Digital Humanities: Past, Present, Future,” version 1.0 (August 2012).


This meeting introduces the question, “What is Digital History?”  It begins with a public lecture, which will be streamed online, that offers a brief history of Digital Humanities.  The remainder of the meeting will focus on a seminar discussion of the week’s readings.

Assignments (due before class)

  • Verify that you have signed up for Zotero, Twitter, and WordPress.
  • Complete the tutorial on “Blogging.”
  • Post at least three tweets to #iupuidh that will be relevant and useful to your classmates.  Feel free to reply and retweet posts.

Meeting Outline

I. What is Digital History? (40 min)
II. Break (5 min)
III. Discussion of Blog Assignment (20 min)
IV. Discussion of Readings (1 hr)
V. Break (10 min)
VI. Discussion of Readings (30 min)

Required Reading

As you read the pieces below, ask yourself the following questions. How are the writers defining digital humanities/digital history? In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different? Why is there such a substantial debate about what constitutes digital humanities? What are the stakes? In what ways is the history of the university and the history of the academic professions shaping the discussion? In what ways are the discussions below applicable to public history, and in what ways do they fall short?

Cohen and Rosenzweig, “Promises and Perils of Digital History” in Digital History, 1-17.

Matthew Kirschenbaum, “What is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, 3-11.

Lisa Spiro, “‘This is Why We Fight’: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, 16-35.

Patrik Svensson, “Beyond the Big Tent” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, 36-49

Stephen Ramsay and Geoffrey Rockwell, “Developing Things: Notes Towards an Epistemology of Building in the Digital Humanities” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, 75-84.

Susan Hockey, “The History of Humanities Computing” in The Blackwell Companion to Digital Humanities, 3-19 .

William G.Thomas, II, “Computing and the Historical Imagination” in The Blackwell Companion to Digital Humanities, 56-68.

Lecture Slides

Optional Reading

As graduate students preparing for a career in history, it is important for you to understand the processes that professional institutions use to evaluate your work. In order to be successful, you will need to articulate how your work (research, curation, projects, etc.) relates to the expectations of the profession. Being able to track your work and show its impact is one way to do this, but some forms of work are easier to document than others. For example, it is relatively simple to show how many times a published article was cited in academic literature. However, it is sometimes less clear how to demonstrate the significance and/or impact of other outputs, such as a blog or an online database (see my infographic on scholars’ perceptions of their institutions’ abilities to recognize non-traditional, digital scholarship). This is particularly true in the realm of the digital humanities — primarily because institutions are still coming to terms with how DH is changing both the forms and uses of scholarship. Nevertheless, several professional organizations have drawn up general guidelines. Please read over the following suggested documents. What do they have in common? What are their strengths and weaknesses?


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